Pathways to Seminary Education: Clarifying Our Purpose

As a mission-centric organization, we are constantly evaluating and assessing our ability to carry out our mission of equipping leaders for service in God’s kingdom. In this spirit, our Seminary hosted a gathering on October 8, 2019 titled “Pathways to Graduate Theological Education.” An introduction to this event, along with extensive content, can be found in my InDepth blog posts leading up to today.

Following the October 8th gathering, we circulated a survey to the participants. The following questions addressed how the participants understood the purpose of the event:

1) “Prior to the event, did you have a clear understanding of the purpose for the gathering?” To this first question, we received responses ranging from “very clear” to “not clear at all.”

2) “How do you now describe the main problem being addressed at the event?” Responses to this second question demonstrate a movement towards a more common understanding on the overall purpose for not only the October gathering, but the Pathways initiative overall:

  • For us, the main problem is how to create pathways into seminary degree programs with those who do not qualify for bachelor exempt status.
  • How do institutions wishing to offer master’s programs to individuals who haven’t yet completed a traditional bachelor’s program do so?
  • Seminaries are considering alternative paths to entering into seminary (in addition to obtaining a bachelors degree) and considering ways to reduce financial expense and duration in seminary.
  • To find partners to help students with some college hours, life experience, etc., to find a way to complete a degree and move on to graduate work.
  • Well, I tend to think in terms of opportunities rather than problems. 🙂 There’s an opportunity for institutions of higher learning to broaden whom they invite into their learning processes, and how.
  • Helping find ways to help students who may be called to seminary to be able to get there.
  • Simplifying, as well as improving the overall integrity of, pathways for non-degreed students to seek out and obtain graduate theological studies.
  • Limiting enrollment barriers with the direct intent of increasing persistence and completion rates.
  • There did not seem to be one main problem, rather several, but they seemed to corral around institutional viability.

These replies capture both the spirit and purpose of the event. They also provide language for what we are trying to do at Winebrenner Theological Seminary: we are committed to creating alternative pathways toward graduate theological education that simplifies the enrollment process, reduces the cost of education, and eliminates potential barriers to graduating with a master’s degree.

We are working toward this goal as a seminary and would love to have you partner with us!  Will you join us?

– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President

– Image by Robert Ruggiero, accessed via Adobe Spark